Markakis has big night .... finally
The night that all of you and Nick Markakis for that matter have long been waiting for finally arrived tonight when the right fielder drove in six of the Orioles' seven runs in a 7-0 series-opening victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at sweltering Camden Yards.
"I guess you could say it was a relief for me, but it was a relief for the whole team," Markakis said. "We got a big hit in a big situation, and we had great pitching and great defense. You play good defense and you pitch, more of the times you win the game."
Markakis hit a two-out grand slam in the second inning on Jeremy Hellickson's first pitch. He then drove a two-run double into the left center field gap off Andy Sonnanstine with two outs in the eighth to give the Orioles a couple of insurance runs.
Before the grand slam, he'd gone 88 at-bats - a streak that dated back to May 15 - without an extra-base hit. That was also the last day that he hit a home run.
"There is still a lot more hard work to come," said Markakis who took extra batting practice before tonight's game. "I’m feeling better, but I still don’t feel like I’m where I need to be. You have to keep plugging away. You have to take it game-by-game, and at-bat by at-bat. You can’t worry about what has happened and what’s coming."
The six RBIs were a career high for Markakis, and also a season high for any Oriole this season. He entered the night with just 19 RBIs and with just six RBIs in his previous 27 games.
“Everybody knows the work that Nick’s been putting in,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “He feels such a responsibility to the team and the Orioles. We see it. He doesn’t wear it on his sleeve, but he grinds it, almost to a fault. That’s what you love him. He’s a piece for us, the things he does to give himself a chance to be successful. I thought the second hit for him was about as big as the first one. We’ll see where it carries. It was a nice moment for him in a big situation in the game.”
Jake Arrieta also had a great outing, throwing seven shutout innings and carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning. But on this night, he and everyone else in the Orioles clubhouse were content talking about Markakis.
“I’m real happy for Nick to get that hit,” Arrieta said. “I feel like he’s been one hit away like that. That’s just great for him. He’s a guy that I always want at the plate with guys on base, no matter what the situation is. Regardless of his struggles, he’s a very, very good hitter. And tonight he showed it.”